Fall 2023 Research Pages –

Resources for Green Building Communicators and the Curious


Hello plant people and biophilic designers, 

Each quarter GPGB shares with you a curated selection of research papers, articles, and survey results. You’ll find them under the education tab on GPGB.org and they have content that helps you communicate the value of biophilic design to your clients and communities.

Recent articles include a case study of biophilic design in hotel architecture, the impact of biophilic design in health-care settings, a deep dive into fractals in architecture, the WHO guidelines on mental health at work, Gensler’s US Workplace Interiors Cost study, and an analysis of ESG in real estate.

The fact that five out of six of these recently published papers contain design “frameworks” and “guidelines” illustrates what one author calls the deep confusion, lack of consensus, and gaps between the scientific literature and practice. Professionals across many sectors are clearly seeing a need to clarify and standardize how research evidence can be used to accelerate the adoption of biophilic design in their sector and suggestions for new frameworks proliferate.

While work at the intersection of ESG metrics and biophilic design may feel outside the wheelhouse of interior landscapers, it is exactly where the future of the industry is being created. With the addition of access to nature across all ESG rating systems, that future could be vibrant and sustainable, for all of us. So study up and share what you learn. Make some noise folks!

“Human-centred health-care environments: a new framework for biophilic design”, Tekin BH and Urbano Gutierrez R (2023) Frontiers in Medical Technology.

This study assessed the application of biophilic design in therapeutic environments for cancer patients in the UK with the authors providing a revised conceptual framework for more effectively guiding designers and policy makers. They identified and ranked the biophilic design features that appear most critical for promoting health and well-being in cancer treatment centers.

The authors stress the importance of making design decisions based on the researched responses of people in the specific setting (typology), climate, and cultural context. In this case study, these are in a therapeutic environment for cancer patients in the UK.

This requires working with specialist consultants at the very early stages of the project, another point stressed by the authors.

The study found that fresh air, light/sunlight, and greenery ranked the most important elements, with all other biophilic design elements falling into the three categories of lower importance.

“What Happens in Your Brain When You Walk Down the Street? Implications of Architectural Proportions, Biophilia, and Fractal Geometry.” Brielmann, AA; Buras, NH; Salingaro, NA; Taylor, RP; (2022) Urban Science

This paper proposes a framework for making design decisions that embrace biophilic design. These researchers use eye-tracking software to measure the responses to various architectural forms and street scenes. They look at the presence, or absence, of fractals in these same architectural forms.

The authors champion the use of aesthetics in guiding urban design decisions with the aesthetic framework based on the research evidence published by scientists working in the field of neuroaesthetics.

Echoing an awareness of cultural differences like the authors of the hospitality case study, these authors note that “despite radically different appearances, the traditional architectures of the world seem to deliver the fractal dimensionalities needed for optimal human well-being.”

A thought-provoking article, the statement that the visual attention software used in the study (3M-VAS) can predict human visual attention with 92% accuracy caught my attention. Imagine this tool becoming as common as a light meter in the interior landscapers’ toolbox. If the use of this tool became widespread by biophilic designers, imagine the location-specific evidence it would provide supporting the placement of restorative greenery. And imagine improving the appearance and effectiveness of your sales deck based on this cognitive science.

“Bringing the User Back in the Building: Analysis of ESG in Real Estate and a Behavioral Framework to Guide Future Research”, Kempeneer, S; Peeters, M; Compernolle, T; Sustainability, 2021.

This study asserts that ESG, while mandated, is poorly defined and observes that the current rating systems tend to focus on environmental metrics rather than the building’s user experience. Metrics for user experience and biophilic design interventions affecting user experience are largely absent from the rating systems.

The authors also call attention to the widespread confusion among the ESG rating systems giving Tesla’s ratings as an example. Among three leading ESG rating agencies, Tesla was given a top score by one, a low score by another, and “ended up somewhere in the middle of a third.”

Some good news – when these rating systems include social and psychological wellbeing, biophilic design elements are the predominant focus.

“The Role of Biophilic Design in Hotel Architecture – A Case Study of Heritance Kandalama, Sri Lanka, Ariyawansa, DN; Perera, NGR (2022) FARU Proceedings

This study used Kellert’s Biophilic Design Framework to identify the biophilic design features they measured at a resort hotel designed by influential Asian architect Geoffrey Bawa.

Guest responses to various biophilic design features were recorded at five locations throughout the hotel. Guests were most responsive to direct experiences of nature.

Gensler’s “United States Workplace Interiors Cost Insights 2022”

“Helping clients understand, anticipate, and manage cost trends and the impact those trends could have…” describes what motivated Gensler, a leading architecture and design firm, to collect this data. The interiors cost survey incorporates project data from 40 million square feet with $7 billion in hard construction costs.

The data describes how costs for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) and general conditions costs (GC) have escalated significantly faster than costs for design elements. It concludes that “focusing on design elements that amplify experience is crucial, and an opportunity to optimize value.”

Has this stimulated your interest in these resources? I hope you visit the site soon and explore.

Found a paper you think belongs on this resource page? Please share your thoughts and email a pdf or link to maryg@greenplantsforgreenbuildings.org.

Keep Spreading the Word

What can you do to accelerate the demand for plants and nature in the built environment? Share, retweet, and repost GPGB posts on your own social media channels. Include links in your company’s newsletters and blogs. If you are an educator, share the channels with your students.

As always, thank you for reading.

#StayPlanted and be a catalyst for wellness, 

Mary Golden
Advocacy Incubator       

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